By Josh Hughes
Go through, go through the gates;
prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway;
clear it of stones;
lift up a signal over the peoples.
Behold, the LORD has proclaimed
to the end of the earth:
Say to the daughter of Zion,
“Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.”
And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the LORD;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken. -Isaiah 62:10-12
I always feel a thrill in my soul when the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are consumed, the turkey fryer is packed up and returned to garage storage, and a Fraser Fir appears in my living room. For these, dear reader, are the sure signs that the calendar is turning to Advent, my favorite season of the church calendar.
My soul longs for these four weeks and the space they provide for us to press into the tension of the already-and-not-yet of God’s kingdom. Advent beckons us to re-calibrate our hearts toward what it means to live as God’s people in a world marred by sin, to practice “singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” (Psalm 137:4). In these days we remember Jesus’ first coming, his revelation of himself as Emmanuel, God with us. And yet we acknowledge, at times through tears, that the full realization of his renewing work waits for his second coming. Sin’s power is defeated; sin’s presence remains. All will be made new again; all is not new yet. Both are true.
What does this mean? It means we can celebrate and enjoy ourselves at Four Oaks Family Christmas (oh man, how fun was that?) on Sunday night, and wake up early Monday morning and fold our hands in prayer only to remember that people we love are suffering, sick, and in pain. It means we can take a deep breathe, and lay certain rock-solid truths to heart; life is hard, but our hope is in Heaven and it is certain. Advent assures our souls that although our church and our world have not managed to avoid suffering, true joy is held out to us in the midst of that suffering because the light of Christ’s coming has dawned, and one day will shine in all its fullness to drive what remains of the darkness away.
Can I invite you into a consideration of these things? How’s your soul today as you read these words? Are you rejoicing today? Are you weary and heavy-laden? Here are tidings of comfort and joy for us all: Christ has come and is coming again for his redeemed. His salvation draws ever-closer, and on a day that’s coming soon he will swallow death forever, wipe every tear from our eye, and call us Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.